In a recent post, Hanneke looked again at a year-old painting she had felt dissatisfied with. I’m not sure how common this is for painters, but for me and, I suspect, most photographers, it’s the normal way of things. Whether blessing or curse, we have lots of older images that were not immediately pursued. Capturing an image takes much less time than bringing it to the standard of a fine print.

There is one advantage to this state of affairs, namely the enforced editing that prunes the large fraction of images that are, at best, less good than those we spend our limited time on. There might even be psychological benefit: if it’s good to learn to let go, I sure have a lot of learning opportunities. On the other hand, if regret is bad, I’m in trouble.

Whenever I look again at those horses backlit by a setting sun, I feel pain. It was the most amazing light I’ve ever seen. The image above is totally unmanipulated in any way. (That doesn’t mean it’s “exactly how it was” — whatever that is — but the digital camera and the program that converted to the image file shown had only standard, default settings for all parameters; I made no adjustments.) Unfortunately, a physical problem with such high-contrast lighting spoils the images with highlights in circular arcs in the grass (I’ve minimized it in the reduced image above, but find it disturbing in the originals.) Plus I was so entranced with the rapidly disappearing light that I did a lousy job of composing. If I ever find that light again…

Many images now in my portfolios, of course, have managed to make the leap from memory to reality. Others are on the cusp. Below is one from two years ago that I’ve re-viewed several times; last night I got as far as processing it to the point you see below (I haven’t tried to print it yet).


I remember making this photograph quite well, and I could easily write a haiku to help place it with others in the Sourdough Trail series. I have a feeling it might get there eventually, but I just haven’t yet viewed it in a frame of mind to make the commitment, so it remains in limbo.

Thinking about it, I realize (yet again) that photographers are not unique. Other artists have sketches, notes, even photographs of subjects that they hope to pursue at some later time. For example, David has mentioned his extensive notebooks. How often are old ideas and intentions brought back to life? Are they better for having waited?